Thursday, August 30, 2012

I is for...

Well, of course, I is for Ithaca.

I've loved Ithaca from the time I went to swim camp at Ithaca College when I was 16, all through the almost ten years I've spent as a proud I-town citizen. I spent four years in between as a student at Ithaca College and while the grand majority of my fellow classmates knew only a select handful of bars and Joe's, I loved riding the bus around town and discovering everything else Ithaca had to offer.  When Brett was finally nearing the completion of his master's degree, we discussed where we wanted to settle. The midwest was definitely out- for a variety of reasons, the biggest being tornados. As we'd both had family crises that year, we really didn't want to be too far from our families. Far enough away to prevent a pop-in, but close enough that it didn't require a military maneuver to rush to someone's aid who was ill or hurt. We looked at each other and said, "Ithaca." It was unanimous and we really didn't entertain any other suggestions. We just knew it was where we belonged.

And although there are drawbacks (winter that goes on until May, the taxes, students cluttering town all wearing that same uniform of super-skinny jeans, a blazer and oddly-colored ballet flats, the "reality" that surrounds our ten square miles, etc.) we love Ithaca. When we were first moved here, we lived in a townhouse up by the mall and I worked downtown. Every day as I drove down the hill, I would see the sailboats out on the lake, see the towers over at IC and the IM Pei-designed Johnson Museum at Cornell that looks like a coffeemaker and think, I am lucky to live here. Nine years later and living on a different hill, I still think so.

So, here is a list of some of the things I love about Ithaca:
  • Namgyal Monastery. One of the coolest things about Ithaca is our Buddhist Monastery, currently located in a house downtown. There's nothing better than seeing the monks tooling around town in their robes, just getting a newspaper or whatnot. Also- it's the North American seat of the Dalai Lama and he pops in from time to time.

  • Howard Cogan. Howard, one of my professors at IC, was an ad man who created the Ithaca is Gorges slogan and gave the rights to the city. He taught Ad Lab, an intensive course where the students create an ad campaign for a national client, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. You spend untold hours working on every detail of the campaign: research, creative, media placement, etc. and it's expected you'll give up your Spring Break to stay on campus and work. I did it twice, once my junior year for no credit because the class had already filled up. Since I'd taken the brand-new research mini-course in the fall and already put all this time and effort into it, it seemed stupid to give up just because I wasn't going to get 3 credit hours. It meant I was insanely busy trying to make it up my senior year, but totally worth it. Howard was more of a steward than an instructor for Ad Lab, there to steer us gently but leaving the work and major decisions to us. He and his wife Helen had a dinner for the Ad Lab kids at their house after the competition. He was like a big Jewish Santa Claus, and one of the best parts of Ad Lab was lining up for a hug from him. He passed away a few years ago. His was the first Jewish funeral service I ever attended. I use something that Howard taught me everyday in every aspect of my job.

  • Ithaca Bakery. The Flat Rock sandwich: Roast turkey, fresh local goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar, on a Baguette. Need I say more?

  • Cayuga Lake. Even though you technically can't swim in it anywhere in Ithaca, it's a gorgeous focal point.

  • Mulholland Wildflower Preserve. One of my favorite places to take Minchy for adventures and quiet, secluded dips in the creek.

  • Cinemapolis. Our local art house movie theatre. Where all the films I want to see are showing, like Moonrise Kingdom. Also, they have delicious air-popped popcorn that you can get parmesan cheese sprinkled on.

  • Briar Patch Veterinary Clinic. Where we've taken our dogs since we got 'em. I love that they remember Frances & Minchy's histories and are so genuinely happy to see them. I also love that they are so practical-minded and emphasize common sense alternatives to surgery whenever possible. And believe it or not, our dogs don't mind going to see the vet.

  • Tompkins County SPCA. A No-Kill shelter since 2001, our SPCA is innovative, creative, and above all, extraordinarily caring. Animals that wouldn't stand a chance at other shelters get 2nd, 3rd, 4th and more chances here at a loving, forever home. They do good work.

  • We have an awesome mayor. Svante Myrick is one of the youngest mayors in US history at age 24 and one of the few to be popularly elected by city-wide vote. He's Ithaca's youngest mayor and our first Mayor of African-American heritage to hold the office. In addition to being a sharp guy, he's also got a great sense of humor and one of the most entertaining Facebook pages I've ever seen. Since he doesn't have a car and mostly bikes, he made his Mayor's Parking Space into a park space. 
The Mayor's Office has Funky Fridays!

He has advice for students on how to party without the police!

The Mayor in his Park Space with LA Kings' captain Dustin Brown,
oh, and the Stanley Cup.

  • Cocktails- at Felicia's and Lot 10. I'm partial to the Lavendar Lemonade and Hemingway Daiquiri.

Evil DragonEye
  • A local bus system so great that I gave up my car nearly three years ago and haven't missed it since. Also, they have really nice drivers (except Evil Dragoneye.)

  • Novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote "Lolita" in Ithaca-and he almost burned it here after the story was rejected by every American publisher. His wife,Vera, changed literary history when she pulled the manuscript from the incinerator behind their rented house on East Seneca St.

Well, I'm sure I've left a lot of things out, but this was by no means an inclusive list. Please feel free to comment on any of your Ithaca favorites that I may have missed!  (Please note: I only included things/places/people in Ithaca proper, not any outside of town, such as Taughannock Falls, etc.)


  1. I thought you would I is for idiot! But maybe Ithaca is a good second choice. Good golly, we STILL have not been into the wildflower garden, dang! One thing we like about Ithaca is that, coming from Massachusetts and New Hampshire for 12+ years, Ithaca is so FRIENDLY, young and old. New Engand? Very socially cold, hard to meet people, nobody cares. People move in and out of Ithaca so often newcomers are welcomed! My favorite 2 places: VIVA taqueria and the Cornell Arboretum, our own, sort of, Central Park!

  2. You are my Ithaca favorite. (Stupid un-sellable condo.)
    -- LB